On Wednesday, March 10, 2021, the Children’s Bureau released guidance on implementing funds appropriated by The Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act, included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act that passed in December 2020 by Congress. The Program Instruction, ACYF-CB-PI-21-04, provides guidance and instructions for the John H. Chafee Foster Care Programs for Successful Transition to Adulthood, Court Improvement Program, Family First Prevention Services Program, and Emergency Funding for the MaryLee Allen Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program. A separate program instruction, ACYF-CB-PI-21-05, on Kinship Navigator Program was also released. These program instructions comes just days before President Biden signs the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.
Temporary suspension of aging out of foster care and permitting re-entry of youth who have left foster care. The Children’s Bureau instructs states to suspend youth from aging out of foster care and permit re-entry of youth who have left foster care (from January 27, 2020-April 20, 2021) solely due to age and education and employment requirements for FFP from December 27, 2020, through September 30, 2021. The re-entry requirement provision expires after September 30, 2021.
Temporary suspension of age and education and employment requirements for IV-E foster care maintenance payments. The Children’s Bureau has required that all IV-E state and tribal agencies submit certification (Attachment C) by April 23, 2021 (45 days from the date of the issuance of the PI) that they will implement the provisions mentioned above related to suspension of aging out, re-entry and eligibility for foster care. In addition, agencies must provide notice of the option to re-enter foster care for youth who aged out during the public health emergency (January 27, 2020, to April 20, 2021).
For costs incurred in meeting the required provisions of preventing youth from aging out of foster care, re-entry into foster care, and the protections for youth in foster care, the Children’s Bureau has allowed agencies to use the additional Chafee funding. Besides, the Children’s Bureau explicitly urges agencies to use at least a portion of the Chafee Program Additional Funding (Attachment A) for “quick and streamlined access to direct financial support for youth or young adults who were or are in foster care at age 14 or older and is not yet 27 years of age.
The Children’s Bureau provides temporary flexibilities on the use of Chafee funds, including the using more than 30 percent of their Chafee funds on room and board, living expenses, such as rent or utilities, driver’s assistance, technology, PPE, unrestricted one-time or monthly direct financial assistance to youth or young adults, and much more.
Temporary Flexibilities for the Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Program. The additional $50 million can be used to assist youth who were on track to attend or were attending post-secondary institutions or programs but may have had their education disrupted due to the pandemic. The Children’s Bureau acknowledges that some young people may not sustain virtual learning due to it being not their way of learning. In line with best practices, this PI waives the educational requirements or makes satisfactory school progress if a youth did not achieve the status.
The ETV maximum award amount has been increased to $12,000 for FY 21 to FY 22 (October 1, 2020, to September 30, 2022). ETV funding can be used for expenses beyond the cost of attendance. A list of items provided includes laptops or other technology for virtual learning (WIFI, hot spots, printer, and supplies) and advanced degrees (Master’s Degree, Doctorate Degree, etc.). Both Chafee and ETV’s additional funding are available over a 2-year period from October 1, 2020, to September 30, 2022.
Other guidance in the Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act PI includes supplemental funding allotments for the Court Improvement Program (attachment F) of the $9.5 million for the State CIP Data grant ($500,000 is reserved for Tribal CIP grants). Funding may be used to ensure that court hearings are timely and happening and that there is a collaboration between child welfare and courts. CIP grants can be used for technology investments for virtual hearings for dependency courts, trainings for court personnel and stakeholders, and programs for families. This supplemental funding does not require a match (100 percent FFP) for program costs.
The $85 million emergency funding allotment for the MaryLee Allen Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program (PSSF) will be announced as it is available and is for the continuation of current purposes, community-based family support, family preservation, family reunification, and adoption promotion and support services. The PSSF provides no match (100 percent FFP) for program costs.
Finally, the PI addresses that no new requirements will be required to qualify for the temporary increases in the Family First Prevention Services Program Pandemic flexibilities of 100 percent FFP during the time period of April 1, 2020, through September 30, 2021, besides that the IV-E agency must have an approved title IV-E Prevention Plan.
To access the Program Instructions and attachments, click the links below: